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Gloria's Trucking Saga: Part Two
By Gloria Diaz
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Fort Wayne Reader
February 2007: I’ve lost the first battle, so I retreated. It was obvious I couldn’t go on any longer without working, so I went back to the temp agency which originally got me work the year before. I expected it to be the usual temp nonsense, and it was. However, a few of my co-workers were so much fun, there were nights that I actually looked forward to going to work. The place was a sweatshop, but I consoled myself with the fact that it was only temporary. I planned to leave as soon as I passed my commercial driver’s license test.
When that would be though, was the question. I’d taken the test for the fifth time in Fort Wayne, and the testing site was covered with just enough snow to ensure I didn’t get any traction. This makes it hard when the test itself requires a lot of backing. The examiner had the gall to ask me, “haven’t you had any experience practicing on ice and snow?” Well, of course not. Through the end of January, we’d barely had any snow. In February, of course, we got hit by winter weather. I didn’t want to take the chance that my usual testing site (in the northern part of the state, which was prone to getting more snow than Fort Wayne) wasn’t going to be clean, so I just decided to wait until the weather cleared. If I’d known then what I know now, I wouldn’t have done that. Your chances of getting a driving job several months out of trucking school go down to zero, because companies don’t consider you a recent trucking school graduate any more. Luckily my trucking company overlooked the fact that I had graduated from school number two six months before getting my CDL. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
I slogged through the next few months at my job. The only things that helped get me through were my friends at work, a boyfriend who was introducing me to new things, and the fact that I’d sold my first fiction ever, plus the publishers wanted to publish more of my work in an e-book someday.
Gradually, things started to get worse. I expected to be hired in permanently at my temp job, and filled out a half-inch of paperwork in preparation. My supervisor moved to another part of the plant, and his replacement was a pair of brusque types that a co-worker nicknamed “Fez” and “Rex Kwan Do.” “Rex Kwan Do” would stand behind a machine and stare at whoever was working on it in a menacing way. I’m sure the Burmese population chatted about him while he remained oblivious. “Fez” had a South American accent that punctuated his obvious opinion that women were inferior (and please, no e-mail on this. I grew up in a household with Hispanic men; I know what I’m talking about) and tattoos of his children’s names on his arm. “Fez” looked like he’d done time in prison, and I thought, “so this is what I’ve come to: six years of college, and my supervisor looks like a thug.”
I don’t remember much of June and July. It was beastly hot, and all night long, I wanted to go home, crank up the air conditioner and sleep. The factory wasn’t air conditioned and I spent most of the night in a forced seven-hour low-impact aerobic/weightlifting workout. I wasn’t interested in food, which is why I lost seven pounds in one week. It was sleep, work, sleep, work. My supervisors didn’t want me working on the machines, so for part of my shift, I became a cleaning woman. Those two months, I was worried sick that I’d be fired every day.
Salvation was coming. The state of Indiana changed the rules for the commercial driver’s license test. I started practicing when the weather got warmer and looked forward to testing again. This time though, I would be allowed three chances to get out and look during the test, and I’d also get to pull up and reposition my truck an extra four times, if I needed them.
Saturday, July 28, I didn’t want to test. The day before, I’d practiced at my second trucking school, a.k.a the “good trucking school.” I felt better about my skills than ever, and I wasn’t dreading the test like I had been. I whizzed through my pre-trip inspection, missing only four out of 70 points possible. The skills part took the longest, but once the examiner said, “okay, you’ve concluded the skills part of the test; the final part is the road skills test,” I knew I had it. The backing skills were the toughest thing for me, and we were past that. I got through the road test, and it was close, but not as close as my accumulation of points on the backing skills part. Still, I was within the limit and couldn’t quite believe it when the examiner gave me the envelope with my test results. I’d passed, finally, on the eighth try.
The next night, I went into work. After I clocked in and listened to the pre-shift meeting, “Rex Kwan Do” asked if anyone had any questions or comments. I raised my hand, and after rattling off a list of grievances, closed with “and you can find a new cleaning lady, because I quit.” With that, I turned, walked out of the breakroom, and drove home.
Next column: Let the Training Begin.